Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 8 – Apr 9, 2016
Playwright: Travis Cotton
Director: Travis Cotton
Cast: Jacob Allan, Robin Goldsworthy, Sheridan Harbridge, Ryan Johnson, Julia Rorke
Image by Rupert Reid
Travis Cotton’s play is as much an analysis on the creative process as it is about entertainment. 80 Minutes No Interval interrogates its own writer’s abilities, ambitions and approach to art and life, but its self-indulgence is very consciously altered to accommodate Cotton’s awareness of a paying crowd’s expectations of enjoyment and fulfilment. A brilliant wit provides coherence between the simultaneous, and usually divergent, needs of being innovative and crowd-pleasing, with an unabashed lust for laughter that determines its every stage moment.
When the show is not delivering unadulterated and outrageous hilarity, it is at least piercingly amusing. Constantly alternating between juvenile and sophisticated tones of humour, it tickles our funny bone relentlessly, and aggressively, insisting on our immersion into its worlds of humour. Robin Goldsworthy and Sheridan Harbridge play a range of supporting characters, and are linchpins to the effectiveness of this fun factory. Both gloriously adventurous and bold, the actors are faultless in their precise comedy, no matter how broad or how subtle they choose to attack the material. Their work here is unmissable. Leading man Ryan Johnson has the hard task of playing straight man in the midst of a lot of hysteria, and although not quite as funny, he certainly holds his own with graceful charm and an ever-present all-knowing glint in his eyes. The role of Louis is perhaps too unsentimental a creation for the play to establish poignancy, but Johnson is nonetheless able to introduce a valuable humanity that elevates it from mere farce.
The production is designed with ingenuity and admirable exactitude. Sound and music by Hamish Michael and Hue Blanes are crucial to how the audience’s emotions respond at every plot juncture, and Ross Graham’s dynamic lights create unexpected variety and dimension to what is essentially a small and blank black space. Beautifully executed by stage manager Liam Murray, the show’s technical accuracy contributes significantly to the way we are kept persuaded and engrossed.
80 Minutes No Interval is a study of negotiations between art and entertainment in theatre. The joy it provides is undeniable, and it makes statements about art that are acute and intelligent. Using autobiography as a point of departure, but disallowing the ego from getting in the way of a good time, Travis Cotton finds himself in a space that is both critical of the art world, and also deeply self-deprecating. It is hard to imagine better ways of spending eighty minutes than with this gleeful concoction of silly and smart, whether just for laughs or food for thought.